The Woman Who Became Pharaoh

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Intricately carved stone blocks have been found depicting Queen Hatshepsut on Egypt’s Elephantine Island, far to the south of most Egyptian capitals. They provide insights to the early reign of this formerly over-looked ruler, whom some elements of Egyptian society tried to hide. That’s because Queen Hatshepsut, who was a regent for her nephew Thutmoses III, took on the robes of the pharaoh for herself.

It was more than a little unusual for a woman to serve as pharaoh (Nefertiti worked as a co-ruler with her husband Akhenaten), and probably the public rebelled. But there have been many statues (most broken up and used as fill for other structures) that show Hatshepsut depicted as a woman. The Elephantine sculptures show her as female, which was the way she was depicted early in her reign.

The first female pharaoh ruled from from 1473 B.C. to 1458 B.C. as a female. Later in her reign, the queen was depicted as a male. They even placed the pharaoh’s false beard on her feminine chin. She was one of the most prolific builders of the pharaoh. She erected and renovated many shrines and temples to the gods. Her Memorial temple still draws crowds today. But the smaller building on Elephantine Island shows how widely the planned buildings were.

The Elephantine Island structure was a way station for a ceremonial barque dedicated to the god Khnum.

No one knows what happened to Hatshepsut when she disappeared from history. Some think her jealous nephew had her killed. Certainly he is blamed for defacing her image and royal cartouche throughout Egypt. Still, many departures of Hatshepsut as a man exist throughout Egypt thanks to archeologist and restorers throughout the world.

It goes to show that when you create something marvelous, as Hatshepsut did with her buildings, people are going to remember you male or female.

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On July 19, 2016
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